Barbara Adam bespokes with the team behind Ho Chi Minh City’s newest bar, Firkin Bespoke Cocktails & Whiskies. Photos by Romain Garrigue.
Firkin is the newest creation of Tribe Hospitality, the team behind Relish & Sons, Racha Room, Phat’s Dumpling House and Stoker.
It’s a warm and welcoming 27-seat bar with a dizzying selection of quality spirits to choose from, including award-winning and rare whiskies from all around the world, including Tasmania.
Still in the soft opening phase, Firkin brings the international trend of “bespoking” cocktails to Ho Chi Minh City, where each drink is customised to suit the drinker’s individual tastes and preferences.
But rather than cast customers adrift in a sea of liquor choices — and there are more than 400 bottles of liquor lining the walls — Firkin’s friendly bartenders will help guide people to their perfect tipple. Guidance also comes in the form of a bespoke menu for three classic cocktails, the Martini, the Old Fashioned and the Whisky Sour.
The Whisky Sour menu give you a choice of bourbons, ryes or blended whiskies, as well as a choice of flavour and bitters. Bespoke cocktail prices range from VND160,000 to VND550,000 and upward for the toppest of top shelf liquors. (And Firkin’s toppest top shelf is so high, it can only be reached with a ladder.)
If you don’t know much about whisky, but want to, Firkin can be your classroom, a place to learn about whisky and whiskey and why they’re spelled differently.
If you want to try a specific bottle, you can order a dram (40mls) or a half dram (20 mls). There are also tasting flights of three drams each, allowing you to compare different varieties of whisky, such as gold medal-winning, 10-year-old, 18-year-old or smoked. The flights come with tasting notes to help you understand what you’re drinking.
All this glorious liquor needs to be soaked up with some seriously good bar food, and Firkin has this covered, with a menu that includes pork crackling with truffle aioli, tuna croquettes and several types of Scotch eggs.
The brains behind Firkin are Australians Andy O’Brien, Chris Donnellan and celebrity bartender Greg Jacob. Between the three, they have nearly 60 years of restaurant experience.
“Firkin is a place where you can come and have a conversation, it’s not a loud noisy place,” Andy said.
The scene is indeed set for a good conversation. The music is low, yet groovy, the lighting is dim and the seats are comfortable. The drinks, the focal point of the bar, are prepared with professionalism and style. (The cherry whiskey sour is highly recommended.)
“We’re fun and relaxed but serious about our beverage programme,” Andy said. “It’s a place where past meets present. We have taken cocktails from the past and contemporised them, giving them our own expression.”
The Firkin team will also be experimenting with bespoke barrel-aging, and making their own bitters and syrups.
But still the question remains: what the firk is a firkin? A firkin is an old Imperial measurement for liquid, with one firkin equal to half a kilderkin.
Firkin and kilderkin are also the names for the barrels that hold the aforementioned volume of liquid.